Pièces de théâtre

3 von 5 millionen (i.e., “3 of 5 million”)en

The first part of Fritz Kater’s new play, ‘HAMMELCHEN’, is a fast-moving dramatisation of the novel “VON DREI MILLIONEN DREI” (“THREE OF THREE MILLION”) by Leonhard Frank (1882-1962). Kater dramatically compresses his version of this fairytale story about three unemployed south German men who set out to seek their fortunes in the 1920s.
Chance places tickets to South American in their hands, but the economic crisis catches up with them there, and they are washed back to Europe. Always on the margins of existence, they laboriously make their way to Berlin. ‘BACON SPRICHT’ (‘BACON SPEAKS’), the second part of the play, is a painter’s manifesto about the search for authenticity in art and the pain of a life at loggerheads with the world. ‘MÜGGELPERLE’ (‘MÜGGEL PEARL’), the last part, shifts the action to contemporary Germany and tells of an amateurish attempt at criminality by three former friends. After a raid goes wrong because the bank they want to rob has closed, they turn their attention to a small jeweller’s shop. Shots are fired. As they make their hasty escape (in a lemon-yellow Golf), the three find their past catching up on them.

(henschel SCHAUSPIEL)

Responses to the Play:

“In the third and last part, the 3 of 5 million find themselves in the modern world. Martin, Sebi and Dirk cannot exactly look back on what could be called careers: each of them has started out on something in the art world with which they now keep their heads above water. When these three big, aging children meet up unexpectedly, down a couple of beers in the sauna and try to trace the line of memory through their biographical myths, the results are lots of text and, almost inevitably, a romantically nihilistic road movie.

The precise events that interrupt the plot and surprise us again and again between a night spent drinking, a Polish street market, a bank raid, a shot in the belly, an escape attempt, one of the small allotment huts known in the former GDR as ‘dachas’ and a boating party on the Müggelsee lake are not terribly important in themselves. It is more decisive how the unemployed of today perform the exercise routines required by their roles in life on the gymnastics bars of their evidently East German biographies, from a life-threatening injury to the petit bourgeois pride of a dacha owner, from an old love to a quick death, from slapstick and tomfoolery to soul-baring despair: three gamblers who take every second seriously tumble from one picaresque episode to the next, flying high on the wings of pathos and coming down with a conservative, narrow-minded bump, worrying more about a despicable act committed in 1988 than the problem that has to be dealt with today or tomorrow. Above all, they doggedly refuse to take the social question seriously in spite of all the existential noise they make: ‘we’ll see what happens next, things will go on one way or the other.’”

(Franz Wille, Mülheim Theatertage, 2005)

“Unlike the unemployed men of 1930, Kater’s East Germans do not go out into the wide world, although it catches up with them anyway. Their flight only leads them to the Müggelsee near Berlin and from there into their own history, into the dreams they once dreamed, and therefore that private terrain on which Kater/Petras, someone who moves back and forth between East and West, has always been at home and most assured. The strongest moments in ‘3 von 5 millionen’ therefore come in the third part when the characters suddenly become flesh and blood – made so by their memories and disappointed hopes, their excuses and evasions. Was Dirk betrayed by Martin back in 1988 when he wanted to escape through Hungary? Did Dirk deliberately shoot at Martin during the raid on the jeweller’s shop? Will Sebi, the actor, ever work with a permanent company again? [...] These are the small questions that really count and give the third part a tender, poetic weight.”

(Christine Dössel, “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, 17.01.2005)

Technische Daten

Premiere 15.01.2005, Deutsches Theater, Kammerspiele, Berlin
Director Armin Petras
Cast 3 H
Rights henschel SCHAUSPIEL Theaterverlag GmbH
Marienburgerstr. 28
10405 Berlin
Tel.: +49 30 44318888, Fax: +49 30 44318877
Navigationssymbolverlag@henschel-theater.de
Translations Theatre Library


 

"WE ARE CAMERA/jasonmaterial":

"This third play in Fritz Kater's Homeland trilogy is the story of a flight, or the story of abduction of a family - a very private family story and at the same time a highly German political story.

The play circles around a family trauma; December 31, 1969, New Year's Eve in a hotel in Finland. A staging-post in a flight from West Germany to East Germany. Ernst, the father, is a GDR spy in the Federal Republic. He travels with his family to Finland so as to reveal the situation to his wife, telling Paula that he will take her and their two children - Mirco and Sonja - to the German Democratic Republic. That night she is unfaithful to her husband with the fifth character in the play - a hotel page, a non-realistic theatrical figure whom the author calls superman/thalidomide skinhead/multiple personality.

Fritz Kater presents this night, lets his protagonists talk about this night and how life continued in the East - up to the father's death in 1992 after the irreversible end of his utopian hopes. The children become adults, protest and rebel; the father comes to grief, becomes an alcoholic, a reluctant dissident. Cinematic flashbacks with the father's wartime childhood superimposed on Mirco's infancy. A very confined, private story reflects German history from the Second World War to the end of history after 1989".
(Thalia Theater Hamburg)


Responses to the Play:

"Fritz Kater's new play "WE ARE CAMERA/jason material" seems like a spy thriller yet is very much more: marital tragedy, drama of adolescence, and game of memory. A picture of Germany as a family puzzle. Most of the fragmentary action takes place during New Year 1969 at a hotel in Helsinki: leaps in time, snapshots, theatrical polaroids. March 1975, December 1981, Autumn 1992. Instant images as if from a family album. (...)
"you while filming filming/a camera that wants to learn how to understand yourself/in search of the things you are" - That is the maxim Fritz Kater follows in this piece. It's a circling around existence, a switching and zooming through the things of life, a postdramatic balancing act between reality-soap, myth, and melodrama. Like all of Kater's plays, this one too is written in language that is laconically terse and rhythmically speedy; it contains epic and poetic passages, breaches and lacunae, leaving space for questions - and for the world's lingering echo".
(Christine Dössel in the programme for the 2004 Mülheim Theatre Days)

"With this third part of his GDR trilogy Fritz Kater adds (...) the most mysterious, glamorous, and presumably most autobiographical of his plays. (...) A Finnish New Year's Eve in 'WE ARE CAMERA/jason material' presents a highly concrete threshhold moment against the background of his characters' memories. That happens in mostly brief, tightly edited scenes jumping between New Year 1969, later everyday life in the GDR, and two or three moments after the Wall came down. (...) Dialogue that seems to have been overheard in laconic reality (...) stands alongside scenes where language also seems to vanish along with the characters".
( Eva Behrendt in: Theater heute, 2/2004)

Technical Data

Premiere 6.12.2003, Thalia Theater Hamburg
Director Armin Petras
Number of Performers 2 females, 3 males
Rights henschel SCHAUSPIEL Theaterverlag GmbH
Marienburgerstr. 28
10405 Berlin
Tel.: +49 30 44318888, Fax: +49 30 44318877
verlag@henschel-theater.de
Translations Theatre Library


"Vineta (Oderwassersucht)" ("Vineta [Addicted to Drowning]")

Steve was a boxer. After nine years away he returns home. Back to Frankfurt/Oder. He wants to fight again, but he is 32. There isn't enough money to heat the old training hall any longer. His former trainer has a dead-end job on Mitropa night trains, and daughter Rosa, once a gymnast, wants to get away. She's placed her hopes in boxer boy-friend Frank's career. He would like to have a child with Rosa. Frank's father was killed in an accident. His mother is by now a jobless alcoholic. Leila, Steve's great love, works as a doctor and has remained single. And Mike doesn't need anyone.
Homecomer Steve seeks refuge and a second chance. But everything has changed. All the others want to leave. But they make a success of things, developing survival strategies with defiance, humour, and self-assurance. They get by and live a full life in their home town, the place where they grew up together.
(Dreimasken Verlag, Munich)

Responses to the Play

The future is stuffed and anyone who sets out in search of his childhood, of a fabulous town, can drown himself straightaway, succumbing to the "yearning for the waters of the Oder" referred to in the play's sub-title. And yet this play is a sad declaration of love for the marginal towns of the East. Not just for Frankfurt/Oder where by now there's no longer any town theatre - but also for any place where sausages are still grilled at sandy camping sites, where generations are linked by eating potato salad together, and where red wine that's much too sweet is spilled amid non-stop babble. In an only half-dreamed barbecue scene an old GDR song is sung to new words: my homeland isn't only today/and yesterday and what I see hear feel and/ taste and forget and want and hide/no it's also the leap from the high building/and the tears
(Petra Kohse, Stückwerk III)

This "Yearning for the Waters of the Oder" - as the author/director subtitles what was later renamed "Fight City. Veneta" (for a staging at Hamburg's Thalia Theater) -- is basically a social drama. The characters who come together in the sleepy dream town of Frankfurt/Oder ten years after the 1989 Changeover must bring tears to the eyes of any sensitive contemporary. Fortunately the author renounces any such embrace, and maintains considerable distance between himself and his characters. Unpleasant people are not made to look sympathetic. Everyone is allowed to talk and act up to the point of destroying what remains of his or her character. Of course what's left are still human beings. That's the problem. During the past ten years nothing has changed with regard to the well-known causes of all that's wrong, so it would be mendacious to assert a degree of hope. But no-one does in this play. And hypocritical understanding among the audience is not to be feared either.
(Franz Wille, Mülheim Theatre Days programme, 2002)

Technical Details

Premiere Schauspiel Leipzig et Freie Kammerspiele, Magdeburg 18.05.2001
Director Markus Dietz (Leipzig), Wolf Bunge (Magdeburg)
Cast 3 women, 4 men
Rights Drei Masken Verlag GmbH
Herr Guido Huller
Mozartstr. 18
80336 Munich
Tel.: 089-54456-909
Fax: 089-53819952
info@dreimaskenverlag.de
Translations Theatre Library


"zeit zu lieben zeit zu sterben" ("a time to love a time to die")
freely adapted from motifs in Pétér Gothár's film "Time Stands Still"

The second play in Kater's GDR trilogy tells of growing up under Honecker's communism. Part I - "eine jugend/chor" ("a youth/chorale"): sex and drugs and Rock'n Roll in the seventies. Fragments of memory from a youth in the GDR. Which girl has the most beautiful breasts? Who can drink the most? Where are the limits? On the periphery are flight, betrayal, death. Love and the horizon are distant; perspectives confined. The first choral part of the play is concerned with carefreeness, of hopeful running riot ending with sobering conscription for military service. Part 2, "ein alter film/die gruppe" ("an old film/the group"): a family story in slow motion. The uncle comes home after years in prison, takes the place of a woman's husband and her rowdy sons' father, who moved to the West at the end of the sixties. The uncle had recanted and could pursue a career. Never play the hero - is his lesson for the brothers. A school friend rebels - but they hold back, and in love too. Only when the younger brother wants to follow his father does he fall in love. He remains. Seven years later he is a soldier and his beloved is pregnant by the hated teacher. Part 3, "eine liebe/zwei menschen" ("one love/two human beings"): After the Wall has come down. A man, father and husband, alone in a city he only came to so as to find work, falls in love with a mulatto woman serving in a canteen. The start of a chaotic relationship. He soon begins to fear he doesn't satisfy her. They skilfully wound one another. Outbursts of rage, journeys, separations, fresh starts - until she confesses that she always loved someone else. Fritz Kater's play looks at love in a time of social standstill: a subjective tone, cinematic dialogue, dense prose. The three autonomous parts of this piece are spanned by a narrative telling of the death of great dreams and arrival in a lonely present day.
(henschel SCHAUSPIEL)

Responses to the Play

"What sounds enormously trivial, sweaty, delightfully small-minded, flat, and flickering is sharply accentuated by the author's condensed use of language: expansive, profound, and clear - and also ardently and painfully heart-rending. Fritz Kater has the rare, admirable gift of making entire comedies and tragedies flare up in just a few words, like speech bubbles in comics. In passing he presents one of the most bewitching love stories in recent theatre - and on top of that probably the most convincing break-out for years of (by chance East German) youngsters into life. Kater's succinctness celebrates a fantastically resonant outburst of ecstasy, far beyond the horizon which confines the world of tangible things and documentable facts. Outlines and clichés unexpectedly become characters with a destiny; everyday frailties get mixed up with real human beings. The next any old thing, almost unsayable, gets intertwined with what is ultimately beyond words".
(Reinhard Wengierek in Die Welt, 23.9.2002)

"Fritz Kater ... tells of a generation between standstill and break-out, of grey yearnings and little tragedies. This text races breathlessly. It's written without full-stops and commas in a rapid, elaborate staccato with succinct dialogue and prosaic narrative passages. Spoken dialogue, comment on scenes, and stage directions succeed one another ... Fritz Kater invokes the microcosm of the East, allowing an entire world to come into existence".
(Christine Dössel, Mülheim Theatre Days programme, 2003)

Technical Details

Premiere 19.9.2002, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
Director Armin Petras
Cast variable
Rights henschel SCHAUSPIEL Theaterverlag GmbH
Marienburgerstr. 28
10405 Berlin
Tel: 030-44318888, Fax: 030-44318877 verlag@henschel-theater.de
Translations Theatre Library